What are microplastics?

Microplastics (MPs) are small plastic fragments whose size can range from a few millimeters to several nanometers.
They are considered a persistent form of pollution, due to the fact that they are widely produced for different purposes (from food packaging to gatherings) and their continuous discharge in the environment is increasing dramatically, with a severe impact on the ecosystems. For this reason, the scientific community is working in the direction of increasing the knowledge about MPs.

What are microplastics made of?

MPs come from larger plastic pieces that have broken apart and exist in different shapes, such as fragments, fibers, film, foam or pellets. Polyethylene (LDPE), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyamide (Nylon) are some of the materials MPs can be made of. Unfortunately, they can be internalized by living organisms [1, 2] and traces of MPs have been recently found in human blood [3].

A new technology to tackle the MPs problem

The development of new technological solutions to tackle MPs pollution is becoming increasingly urgent. Within this context, a new study from Sancataldo et al. [4] demonstrates how it is possible to study and readily identify MPs mixture by analyzing their fluorescence lifetime (FLIM) and emission spectrum. This work shows how a simple method can turn the identification of MPs into an easy and fast process.

Fluorescence lifetime works as a “fingerprint” for MPs, where its analysis makes the identification of different types of plastic materials intuitive and quick [5][6]. An incredibly powerful extension of FLIM regards the introduction of the phasor analysis, a 2D representation that enables a global view of the different fluorescence decay times [7].
FLIM LABS analysis is based on the phasor analysis and its technology is accessible and simple to understand and implement.

Where does FLIM LABS stand?

FLIM LABS is active in the field of fluorescence lifetime detection and analysis. It is currently involved in a project focused on the identification of MPs and its technology is available and ready to be used.
The Data Acquisition Card is a unique component that will allow you to collect multiple fluorescence decays at the same time. The component comes with FLIM Studio, a powerful software specifically designed by FLIM LABS to collect and analyze fluorescence lifetime data in an intuitive and straightforward way.

FLIM LABS research and development

Starting from the beginning 2022, FLIM LABS has taken active part in an industrial Ph.D project project focused on the identification of MPs using FLIM. The research is carried out by the Ph.D. student Siyao Xiao, who is currently working at University of La Sapienza (Rome, Italy) in tight collaboration with the Nanodelivery Lab, headed by Prof. Giulio Caracciolo. Aim of the project is to further develop FLIM LABS technology into devices that can easily be used to detect and tell apart different types of MPs.

Our setup for microplastics analysis:

Our setup for microplastics analysis:


[1] Cole M, Webb H, Lindeque PK, Fileman ES, Halsband C, Galloway TS. Isolation of microplastics in biota-rich seawater samples and marine organisms. Sci Rep. 2014;4.

[2] Thompson RC, Olson Y, Mitchell RP, Davis A, Rowland SJ, John AWG, et al. Lost at Sea: Where Is All the Plastic? Science (80- ). 2004;304: 838.

[3] Heather A. Leslie, Martin J.M. van Velzen, Sicco H. Brandsma, A. Dick Vethaak, Juan J. Garcia-Vallejo, Marja H. Lamoree, Discovery and quantification of plastic particle pollution in human blood,Environment International, Volume 163, 2022, 107199, ISSN 0160-4120, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2022.107199

[4] G. Sancataldo, G.Avellone and V. Vetri, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2020, DOI:

[5] Zhou F, Wang X, Wang G, Zuo Y. A Rapid Method for Detecting Microplastics Based on Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging Technology (FLIM). Toxics. 2022; 10(3):118.

[6] Adrian Monteleone, Folker Wenzel, Heinz Langhals, Daniel Dietrich, New application for the identification and differentiation of microplastics based on fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM), Journal of Environmental Chemical Engineering, Volume 9, Issue 1, 2021, 104769, ISSN 2213-3437,

[7] Monteleone A, Schary W, Wenzel F, Langhals H, Dietrich DR. Label-free identification and differentiation of different microplastics using phasor analysis of fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM)-generated data. Chem Biol Interact. 2021 Jun 1;342:109466.
doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2021.109466.
Epub 2021 Apr 15. PMID: 33865829.